If we go back at the 80’s when the first low-fat diets started to blow and thus leading to an enormous of low-fat products we can see that from there on many food companies jumped on this food trend. While producing low-fat products these companies had to add extra sugar to boost flavor and enhance palatability.
With the ever-increasing rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes in contemporary society over the last few decades, the debate as to the root of this problem has often ping-ponged between sugar and fat. So sugar vs. fat, who’s the culprit? This debate is more nuanced than laying blame at the door of one or the other, as we’ll see.
Does fat or sugar has a more negative effect on your health?
Well, both are necessary for life, but both in excess can be very bad for you. Nowadays, diet trends seem to lean more toward a high-fat, low-carb direction, with sugar and carbohydrates vilified and hypothesized to be the root cause of all disease.
No carbs, no fat, so what’s left? On closer inspection, the case at hand isn’t that black and white because not all foods low in fat or carbohydrates are detrimental to our health. In fact, it’s essential to eat the right balance of both (as well as protein) in your daily diet. The more pressing issue is how both fat and sugar are processed.
The Effects of Sugar
Refined sugars and carbohydrates are isolated from their main primary nutritional source, which means they lack essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs as well as leading to large spikes and drastic dips in blood sugar levels. This kind of blood sugar roller coaster can lead to intense cravings, weight gain and, in more severe cases, type 2 diabetes. Imagine a stalk of sugarcane and think how long you would have to chew it to taste a bit of sweetness, versus drinking a soda with ten teaspoons of added sugar. It can be easy to consume too much sugar too quickly without realizing.
Sugar addiction and dependency is quite real. The more you have, the more you need. Many studies found that when animals get sugar, they’ll overeat and develop a tolerance to it. Meaning they need more and more to feel good. The removal of sugar from their diet produced withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and the shakes.
The effect of excess sugar in your body
- a) Teeth:The bacteria in your mouth uses sugar from foods and drinks to cause tooth decay.
- b) Pancreas: When there is a lot of sugar in your body, your pancreas needs to produce a lot of insulin to deal with it. An overworked pancreas lead to Type 2 Diabetes, Liver diseases, Heart diseases and more!
- c) Heart:With excess insulin, the sympathetic nervous system is fired up, which causes an increase in your blood pressure and heart rate.
- d) Stomach:When you are eating, a hormone called ‘Leptin’ tells your brain that you are full. But sugar gets in the way of that job and causes the brain to ignore ‘Leptin’ which is the reason why you still feel hungry even when your stomach is full!
- e) Skin:Sugar is inflammatory. So, hello, sagging skin and wrinkles!
- f) Brain:Eating a lot of sugar hinders communication among your brain cells which in-turn hinders your learning and memory!
The Effect of Fats
Whether it is the Atkins diet or the latest trend of ketogenic diets flooding the health and fitness landscape, eating a high-fat diet without regard to the type of fats, can land you in hot water down the line healthwise. It’s crucial to be mindful of what kinds of fats you incorporate into your diet. When you take a closer look at, you’ll notice high-fat foods often promoted also include highly-processed meats, such as bacon or sausage. These kinds of meats are usually packed with preservatives as well as containing high levels of salt, nitrates, and sugar. Research has underscored that such processed meats tend to cause inflammation in the body and increase the risk of certain types of cancers.
There’s a vast difference between heavily processed fats and fats that originate from good quality food sources. When animals consume foods they are genetically predisposed to eat and live in clean, healthy living conditions, they will naturally be leaner and have higher amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in their system. The same goes for eggs and dairy products. So whenever possible, going organic will serve your health well.
The same thinking applies when it comes to plant-based oils. Focus on natural and minimally processed options as much as feasible. It’s easier to ingest excess calories from olive oil than when eating whole olives. Oils have many benefits, so enjoy them in moderation.
Aim for unrefined oils as refined and heat-treated variants contain damaged fats that are covered up with deodorizers and coloring. Many food manufacturers use high amounts of saturated palm oil or hydrogenated fats in their products, associated with cardiovascular disease and inflammation. Recent studies have debunked the myth that saturated fat intake is directly associated with cardiovascular disease. For optimal health, it’s important to take a holistic approach and look at your overall diet. Including high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables twinned with an active lifestyle will serve your health and well-being well.
As study after study show more effective weight loss is on a low-carb diet, this should be no surprise. The loss of fat in an experiment was 1,5 kg on low-carb (a good result in a month) and 0,5 kg on low-fat. Most of the rest was probably fluid. On a very strict low-carb diet, you quickly lose a kilo or two of glycogen and water weight.
Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. Because the brain is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ, using one-half of all the sugar energy in the body.
Brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this fuel source. If there isn’t enough glucose in the brain, for example, neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are not produced and communication between neurons breaks down. In addition, hypoglycemia, a common complication of diabetes caused by low glucose levels in the blood, can lead to loss of energy for brain function and is linked to poor attention and cognitive function.
Did you know up to 70 percent of our brain is made of fat?
Fat is very important for proper brain function, but it needs to be the right kind of fat. We need to get enough omega 3-fatty acids because these are the essential building blocks of our brain and they’re important for learning and memory. This is one reason that women’s prenatal vitamins contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a type of omega-3 that’s also found in large amounts in fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines. Another type of omega-3 is available from plants such as ground flaxseeds, chia, and walnuts.
The fat you want to avoid in large amounts is saturated fat such as butter, fatty meat, whole-fat dairy products, and coconut oil.
The worst fats are partially hydrogenated fats like trans fats, which are still found in some foods. Also, try to avoid mono- and di-glycerides. These fats have replaced trans fats in commercial cake mixes, frostings, and other foods. It’s also good to avoid any food that’s deep-fried because these fats oxidize over time and may damage our cells.
Sugars are an important energy source for athletes because, in their simplest form, they are carbohydrates – the body and brain’s main fuel source. So which sugars help or hurt your workout? Simple sugars like glucose for workouts. Glucose is found in carbs like bread, pasta, and fruits.
And if you switch to low-carb diet the body needs weeks or sometimes even months to adapt to high-intensity exercise, using mostly fat and ketones. And even then you might need a few carbs for explosive and anaerobic sports.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels. Sugar consumption will not directly cause either type. However, eating too much can cause weight gain. Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition, which causes a person’s immune system to attack the cells that produce insulin. Damage to these cells undermines the body’s ability to manage blood glucose. Once a person has diabetes, eating too much sugar can make symptoms worse, as diabetes makes it more difficult for the body to manage blood sugar levels. People with type 1 diabetes still need to be careful about sugar intake.
Fat is very high in calories with each gram of fat providing more than twice as many calories compared to protein and carbohydrates. Eating too much fat can lead to you taking in more calories than your body needs which causes weight gain which can affect your diabetes control and overall health.
The type of fat is important too. Having too much-saturated fat in your diet can cause high levels of what’s known as ‘bad cholesterol’ (low-density lipoprotein or LDL), which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). People with diabetes are at increased risk of CVD, so it’s even more important to make healthier food choices.
If you want to become your healthiest self, opt for foods like:
extra-virgin olive oil
nutrient-rich nuts and seeds
We also suggest skipping the sugar from processed foods, sugar-sweetened juices, energy drinks or sodas, and other unhealthy sources.
If you do need to add a hint of sweetness to your favorite baked goods or beverages, select natural sweeteners like:
Not only can these ingredients supply a bit of extra flavor, but they also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make them a much better alternative to plain, white, processed sugar.
Conclusion – Sugar Vs Fat Summary
The healthiest and most sustainable way to improve your health is to make minor changes for healthier choices. Sugar is highly addictive and has been associated with a number of adverse effects on health. Healthy fats, on the other hand, are an essential part of the diet and may actually aid in weight loss, improve heart health and reduce inflammation. For this reason, it’s best to swap the sugar out of your diet and fill up on healthy fats instead.
Even if some fats are considered healthy, it’s best to eat them in moderation if you want to lose weight. Adjusting your calorie intake is crucial for weight loss, and fats, even the healthy ones, have a lot of calories. We believe that the key to health is focusing on balanced, varied foods that are and minimally processed.